Remembering David Sanjek

by justindburton on December 1, 2011

David Sanjek, who has been a scholarly mentor and friend to many who read this site and who has through the years been integral to the workings of IASPM-US, died suddenly yesterday after suffering a heart attack. This space is dedicated to remembering him, and it seems appropriate to start with the words of his friend, Reebee Garofalo:

I awoke to this news; it is too jarring to imagine. Just as Charles Hamm passed the reins of IASPM-US to me, I passed them to Dave. Dave is the guy who began to impose a sense of organization on what was up until then a wonderful network; it was Dave who incorporated the US chapter as a tax exempt, non-profit. Such bureaucratic actions, of course, only begin to scratch the surface of the love and commitment he felt toward IASPM and its members. I actually met Dave’s father, Russ, before I met Dave. As a VP at BMI, Russ’s knowledge of the music industry was encyclopedic, and his participation in many of the events that shaped it was legendary. He was widely known as the conscience of the music business. As is easy to see, Dave carried on the family business admirably. As the archivist for BMI, Dave was one of the most accomplished and generous scholars in the field. Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, I seldom had a question about popular music history for which Dave wasn’t my first phone call (yes, we still used telephones then). Interestingly, at a time when many of our colleagues viewed Dave’s job as more glamorous than our own — he did get to go to those glitzy Grammy and Rock Hall events, after all — Dave wanted nothing more than to be in the academy. Kudos to the folks at Salford for having the good sense to give him the opportunity. I’m glad he got to realize his dream before he left us. It isn’t quite enough to say he will be missed. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine IASPM (or the world, for that matter) without him.

Goodbye my friend.
With love,

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charlie mcgovern December 1, 2011 at 10:57 am

David Sanjek – rest in peace

My facebook friends kid me because i often post tributes to honor creators and influences when they pass away. Honoring someone close to you is much harder. This will be brief – the long form just isnt working for me now.

Dave Sanjek was my friend for well over 20 years, although neither of us could remember exactly when it was that we met.

Anyone who met Dave for 5 minutes would remember his genuine enthusiasm for their interests, his generosity with his own time and support, his desire to connect people with one another. He was a wondrous combination of camp counselor, entrepreneur, scholar, fan, advocate and flaneur. A passionate devotee of music and film, Dave continually generated ideas – for stories, articles, books, conferences – and he shared them generously and even recklessly with anyone who might benefit from them – in other words, all of us. He worked incessantly, but his life was devoted as far as I could tell to people – his colleagues and students, to the oh so many in IASPM, ASA, EMP and other scholarly communities, to his brothers and his mom, to friends. He laughed at the absurdities of life like a grizzled cynic, but he gave his big romantic heart to causes and issues repeatedly, with an innocence and ardor that he earned again and again, no matter what life dished out to him. If you disappointed him, you might not ever know it, so quick was he to forgive and move on. If he disappointed you, you’d have trouble remembering why, so moving were his efforts the next time. He loved his work, he loved the campaign of thinking critically and historically about music and art, and he reminded us all how blessed we were to share in that work, and in each other. Of his work we can all speak later. His gift to us was the community he insisted on laboring to build, which he insisted on reminding us was there, even when few of us could discern or imagine one.
In the end, just about anyone who knew Dave for five minutes would up feeling like she or he had known him for twenty or more years. Right now Im just really sad: the next twenty years he and I discussed, planned, conspired and fretted over, the laughs and love, are gone. And I have to laugh to imagine Dave’s response, with one eyebrow raised quizzically: “Well, what did you expect?”
Thanks, my friend.

Steve Waksman December 1, 2011 at 11:01 am

I’ll reiterate some remarks I just posted to the IASPM international listserv. Dave was president of IASPM-US when I first became active in 1997. He was a tireless advocate for the organization, but more importantly for me as a graduate student and new member, he was incredibly welcoming, warm and supportive. He was all about inclusion, and he always took it upon himself to be IASPM’s ambassador. Many are the times I can recall being at an American Studies Association conference in those years and seeing Dave get up during a q&a session of some panel that happened to be on popular music and making sure that everyone in that room knew that they were invited to join IASPM-US. That was Dave. He never stopped. Which is why it’s so hard to fathom his loss – he seemed unstoppable. He was a great scholar and a true mensch.

Steve Jones December 1, 2011 at 11:39 am

I have so many memories of Dave, many, probably most, of which involve informal, lengthy conversations about music, of course, but also about family, work, food, movies, politics, theater… the list goes on. He was smart, opinionated, and in his element among others in IASPM. He was never one to avoid putting his shoulder to the wheel for someone or for IASPM. Not to slight IASPM in any way, but perhaps the strongest memories I have are of seeing him outside of that context, probably because our conversations were more wide-ranging and less tied to things that came up at a conference. Maybe most of all I remember his lengthy letters from England after he moved there and started essentially a new life. What a sweet, sweet man he was. Despite knowing he died I’ll keep waiting for that next letter from him. And I will miss him very, very much.

Prof George McKay December 1, 2011 at 11:47 am

Speaking from Salford University, we are all shocked and saddened by Dave’s sudden death. We are in the process of putting up our own announcement, and planning our tribute to our esteemed and loved Professor of Popular Music. More to follow. Sad days at Salford.

Griffin Woodworth December 1, 2011 at 11:49 am

David Sanjek was both a distinguished scholar and a friendly, approachable guy who was always willing to help out a junior scholar. I remember my very first IASPM presentation – in Cleveland, if memory serves – as a wide-eyed grad student. The first day, I ended up sitting with David in the lobby of the conference hotel for the better part of an hour, picking his brain about all manner of pop-scholarship topics. All the while, I remember thinking, “this man’s book is part of the reason I wanted to study pop music, and here he is sharing his wisdom with me.” I have come back to Sanjek’s work again and again since then, and I still cannot believe that he won’t be there at the next conference to share his enthusiasm and vast knowledge with all of us, new and returning scholars alike.

Paul Fischer December 1, 2011 at 11:51 am

Here’s a start—

David Sanjek was pivotal as President of IASPM-US, in moving the Association from its early non-hierarchical roots to becoming a truly professional academic organization. Working as his Vice President for a time, I assisted him in codifying the governance structures of IASPM-US and achieving its achieving non-profit corporate status. His was the spark that propelled IASPM-US toward the 21st century, and he is owed full credit for its survival and continued vibrancy. Beyond that, he was one of the best read and critically articulate people I have ever known. In the years after his active leadership in IASPM-US David continued to be a warm, welcoming presence for the group, encouraging many in their work on Popular Music and helping create a supportive (if critical) atmosphere at our conferences. He could be irascible, his years at BMI were not his favorites– but once he secured an academic position (thank you Salford for recognizing his worth) he seemed much more at ease and satisfied with himself. Getting to know David took a while, but was well worth the effort. The meals shared with him in Nashville, London, Manchester and other locales are among the most memorable I’ve had. David Sanjek was my friend, and he will be missed.

Barry Shank December 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

For as long as I can remember, David was there. At every ASA we would talk about (and usually disagree about) the proper scholarly approach to popular music. Whenever I got to an IASPM, David was there, usually hailing me from across the room, where he was already engaged in some heated discussion, a heated discussion that, in his mind, could always use more fuel. I was so happy for him when he got the job at Salford. And he seemed really happy, too. Most recently, he was excited about the upcoming IASPM-UK conference that he was planning. He had snagged Rob Young to come talk about Electric Eden, and he wanted everyone–no, seriously, everyone, to come. Now, someone will be missing.

Siva Vaidhyanathan December 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Early in graduate school, some time around 1994 or so, I came across a law review article that David had written about sampling in hip-hop and its copyright implications. It was the first such article I had found that took the music seriously. It demonstrated a lucidity and level of musical, commercial, and legal knowledge that few have ever demonstrated. I looked him up via whatever search system we had back then (I believe I called 411 in Manhattan and left a message at the BMI office for him). He called me back right away and we started chatting about my dissertation and my interest in music copyright. Soon we were planning conference sessions together. He offered to read my diss and offered essential corrections and comments. David always gave his time to those who asked. After I finished my dissertation I moved to NYC where I started seeing David frequently. We caught movies together. We discussed jazz and hip-hop. I learned of his frustrating 20-year effort to secure decent employment within academia. I could not have been more thrilled with Salford offered him his dream job. We saw each other infrequently over the past few years after I moved to Virginia and he moved to the UK. But we kept in touch. I saw him last in October. He wanted me to write something for a collection he was editing. I was happy to do it. I owe him so much. And I miss him dearly.

MSC December 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm

He was beloved by many in the States as both friend and mentor.

Philip Tagg December 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm

First Charles Hamm and now David Sanjek. What an awful loss! These two truly good US-Americans will be sorely missed in IASPM (International). The last time I met David was 16 years ago with Reebee G at BMI. David’s generosity of spirit, his willingness and expertise in helping me out with issues of copyright, film scores and popular music archives were invaluable. IASPM-US may have lost two central figures in popular music studies but all IASPMites have benefitted enormously from their efforts and generosity.
Philip Tagg
(Founder, IASPM)

Thom Swiss December 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I’ve never met anyone who was so steeped in so many aspects of popular music across periods, genres, styles, and histories. David knew (or if he didn’t, wanted to know) about everything related to music. I worked with David for a number of years while we were on the board of IASPM; then, later, as his editor for a couple of books on popular music. David was incredibly sweet and kind to me as I was just starting to understand the field: he was so smart, so supportive — even during what was a stressful time for him as he looked ongoingly for an academic job and dealt with family issues. He schooled me, and I’ll deeply miss my brilliant teacher who was also a friend.

Phil Auslander December 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm

David made a lasting impression on me at the very first IASPM conference I ever attended, when I was brand new to the organization and feeling my way around. I can’t remember whether he was actually presenting at the particular session I’m thinking of or just attending it. What I do remember is that he made a lengthy, erudite intervention into the discussion, to which my reaction was, “Who is this guy?” I learned very quickly who he was and why he was so important to IASPM and popular music studies in general.

I visited with David twice in Manchester since he took the job at Salford University. The most recent time was this past July (2011). I met David at his favorite Chinese restaurant (one with multiple, lengthy, illustrated menus) and spent hours conversing with him about food, movies, popular culture, and, of course, music, music, music. It was the kind of conversation that reminds you of the passionate, wide-ranging discussions you had with buddies in high school and college, the kind that I, at least, don’t experience that often anymore and that I truly miss. I didn’t know David all that well, though I’d known him for quite a while, but I sensed in him a kindred spirit, one whose interests cover wide swaths of art and culture, who can’t stop himself from pursuing even seemingly very minor questions that are nevertheless interesting, and whose head is filled to the bursting point with a complicated mix of important information, minutiae, and outright trivia.

I really enjoyed My Dinner with David and was looking forward to repeating it next time I found myself in Manchester. That will never happen now, and I’m sad that it won’t. We’ve lost a good one and I will miss him.

Sarah Hill December 1, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I got to know Dave only after he had moved to the UK. We bonded over many shared interests, personal and professional, as well as the expat experience. He was enormously generous with his time and expertise, and almost infinitely supportive of his students and colleagues in IASPM-UK. I sent him an email only yesterday morning congratulating him on successful liftoff of the Salford conference. I only wish that he could be there to revel in it. We will all feel his absence, and I will certainly miss him.

Emmett G. Price III December 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Rest in peace my dear friend.
Not much else to say,

Kevin Fellezs December 1, 2011 at 1:23 pm

David will be missed. Like others who have posted, he generously shared his time, his enthusiasms and his knowledge with me. I will miss running into him at conferences and getting caught up in a discussion that would begin and end with music but would inevitably range across a number of shared interests. RIP, David.

Richard Mook December 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I first met Dave at Camp Timberlake in Plymouth, VT where he instructed me (then age 13) on the finer points of preparing vast quantities of Cashew Chicken, and lugged fifteen pounds of ground beef up a 3,000-ft hike so that we could eat “real food” on our camping trip. Such devotion to gastronomy made a big impression upon me in an environment where the quantity and quality of available food was paramount (campers burn lots of calories). I idolized his quick wit, wry sense of humor, athleticism, wisdom, and seemingly endless knowledge of all things.

Only during my graduate work in musicology did I discover that this remarkable man was also a model scholar. His work is usually not on my shelf, but open on my desk, dog-eared and crowded with post-it notes. He was a generous listener, mentor, and friend.

Aaron Fox December 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I am heartbroken. David was the very embodiment of a mensch, and a brilliant and passionate scholar on top of that. He was simply one of the most generous and humane colleagues I have ever known. What a tragic loss of a friend to so many of us, a mentor to many more, and an inspiration to us all.
Aaron A. Fox

George McKay December 1, 2011 at 1:39 pm

[From my tribute on my website this morning–there’s a nice pic of Dave too]

So shocked and saddened by the sudden death on Tuesday of my friend and colleague David Sanjek, Professor of Popular Music at the University of Salford.

He was a stupendously enthusiastic scholar of popular music, and had an intimidating encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject. Not just that: he knew at least half of the people he talked about. I remember once saying I’m working on polio and pop, and looking a little at Doc Pomus. Dave’s reply started with ‘Yeah I met him at a party once’. To me, these were distant figures; to Dave they were just people in the scene in the city, he’d met or knew. He came to the UK and made it, and Salford, a more interesting place to be. What generosity of spirit, what curiosity and love of music and culture.

Dave came to academia relatively late, and I’ve always thought was tremendously brave in his move as a single man in his 50s aross the Atlantic–from NYC to Manchester! from the industry and archives to the academic life. It was my job once to try to ‘manage’ him… disastrous! How are your bidding targets going, and is the website updated? ‘Yeah, right, George, I’m straight onto it.’ He put his energies into organising events: ‘there’s an exhibition in town on FAC and the Hacienda, ok, let’s have a symposium here to tie in with it’. A conference on film and soundtracks—bringing his love of music and screen together (I look forward to the book of that one). And bringing the IASPM 2012 conference to Salford. Seminars with great speakers—and him usually the best of all at that.

Too soon, far too soon. There were more books in him! RIP, Prof.

George McKay December 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm

From Salford we have established a Facebook Dave Sanjek Memorial Page, for his students, and friends and colleagues who use FB. It’s at

Tom Attah December 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm

It is hard to lose sight of luminous beings. I was honoured to have been chosen to work with Professor Sanjek as a Ph.D. Student in 2012 and had spent most of 2011 laughing and shaking my head in disbelief at the encycloapaedic knowledge and generosity of a truly indredible and academically indefatigable man. I am, like so many others, heartbroken at a loss which highlights how dark my days were until he shone the light of his understanding into them. Once again: it is hard to lose sight of luminous beings.

Daphne Carr December 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm

The first time I met Dave was in the book room at ASA. It was my first attendance and I felt like a fish out of water. We were looking at the same books and struck up a conversation that, of course, lasted an hour. He made me feel at home, and every meeting since made me feel the same way. My last good bye to him was in a bar while talking with Barry Shank after the Sound Studies meeting. He was standing there in his leather jacket joking around with us and I was again struck by a feeling: these people are pop music scholarship community at its best: brilliant, big eared, egalitarian, politically engaged, committed, always reaching, informal, quirky, and full of verve. He was the embodiment of those qualities, and I hope to see it passed on in our community. I am sad for his loss, and hope that the last project he discussed (with typical superlative passion), which was a book on Northern Soul, finds its way to publication.

Jeff Melnick December 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Thank you all for sharing these wonderful remembrances of David.

I got to know David starting in the late 1990s when I and my compatriots in the Boston Collective took over editing Journal of Popular Music Studies from Anahid Kassabian. What I learned about David then–and continued to be astonished by for the next decade–was how devoted he was to helping younger folks in the business. I don’t know if people still put any stock in Erik Erikson’s psychosocial developmental stages theory, but Dave had that stage 6 “generativity” thing down: he really seemed to get as much–if not more–satisfaction from ushering some emergent scholar on to a larger stage as he did from getting his own work out there. Dave truly seemed to like younger people and liked learning from them, joining them, pushing them along in their explorations. With this heartbreaking loss of David Sanjek, the rest of us really need to step up our game.

Norma Coates December 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I’m still reeling from this. I met Dave at my first ever conference in 1995, and got to know him when I became involved in IASPM-US as a grad student member of the board in the late 1990s. He was a mentor and a supportive friend who worked tirelessly for the organization and the field. He was always doing fascinating work that holds up. He paid attention to issues of gender in popular music long before most of us did. I often assign his article on female rockabilly artists in my classes. Just two days ago, I saw that he was organizing next year’s meeting of IASPM-UK and thought that was enough of a reason to submit something. I’m so glad that Dave finally landed a great academic job. I’m glad that he got a few good years in and was doing what he loved where he wanted to do it. I echo those her and elsewhere who’ve called him a mensch. He certainly was. We will miss you, Dave.

David Brackett December 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I add my voice to the chorus of disbelieving and sad people who knew Dave Sanjek. I worked closely with Dave in IASPM-US from 1995-2000, first as Secretary-Treasurer while he was President (there were only two officers in those days) and then as his successor as President (Dave continued on as Vice-President, and continued to serve on the Board in various capacities after that). Dave was on a mission to bring the organization to the next level in terms of visibility and professionalism, and we saw a huge increase in membership during that period. His scholarly enthusiasm and openness were also an essential part of that drive to expand the organization. Like others, I remember many passionate conversations about music, and Dave’s eclectic interests and generosity seemingly knew no boundaries. I offer an anecdote exemplifying these qualities: during a conversation in his office at BMI, upon finding out that I was working on the use of preexisting music in films, he immediately went to the precise spot in his shelves containing a book on the subject, which neither I nor anyone else working on the subject had ever heard about, and promptly loaned it to me. He will be sorely missed in the world of popular music studies.

Kembrew McLeod December 1, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I can’t tell you how sad the news of Dave’s death made me. He was a generous, wonderful person, and his early work on music copyright first drew me to him as a scholar, and when I finally met him in person at an IASPM conference some time in the 1990s, he was incredibly supportive of my own research. I know how frustrating it was for him finding a good academic job, which is why it made me so happy to see *him* so happy after he took a job at Salford. I was honored that he flew me out to his new university for a conference, and during that time he showed me around his new hometown with barely repressed enthusiasm. When I was in Manchester a year later, we met up at his favorite Thai restaurant. I had never seen him happier, and I’m glad that is my last memory of him. Goodbye Dave.

Jason Kirby December 1, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I first met Dave Sanjek at a meeting of the International Country Music Conference, where he took an active interest in a presentation I had given that day. As a graduate student and someone who was new to academic conferences, he went out of his way to make me feel comfortable and welcome within the group. I’d see Dr. Sanjek again at several IASPM meetings, and at EMP last year. Typically I would join Dave and a group of people for dinner at these meetings, and was always impressed by his personal warmth and really amazing storytelling abilities at the dinner table. It’s heartening to me that so many others posting here experienced the same with him! He was witty, passionate about music (and everything), and a kind of mentor to me even though I unfortunately hadn’t gotten to know him that well, yet. I’m saddened by his death, and will genuinely miss him!

Murray Forman December 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I join the chorus of voices – and there will be more in this choir – singing Dave’s praises. He was a fount of historical knowledge about popular music but his real intellectual authority lay in his command of the details. He knew a hell of a lot and shared what he knew freely. His comments on peoples’ conference presentations or drafts were often dizzying and always extremely helpful. We exchanged work as recently as two weeks ago (stay tuned for his chapter on Northern Soul audiences, race and the relations to U.S. and Southern black culture) and I was reminded of his prodigious reservoir of facts, his analytical rigor, and his sheer pleasure in the music.

Let me say it: Dave was a quirky dude. But his openness was disarming and he allowed others to be comfortable with their own damned quirkiness as long as they were solid in their thinking. Dave’s smart, curious, and endlessly productive character was, of course, balanced by real warmth; he loved people like he loved music and ideas about music. After a particular difficult, shared experience Dave started signing his e-mails “love Dave.” Big brain, big heart…yep, that’s Sanjek.
Bye Dave. Love you back.

Diane Pecknold December 1, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Like many who have posted here, I got to know Dave when I was a graduate student. Though I had not met him, I screwed up the courage to write him an e-mail asking if he might, possibly, perhaps just consider chairing a conference panel I was co-organizing. I was stunned when he wrote back immediately with a warm and encouraging note saying he would love to do it. Of course, I didn’t know Dave, didn’t recognize that this was the same generous, welcoming response he gave to everyone, especially people who didn’t know if they were invited to the party. Over time, I gave up being intimidated by him–who wouldn’t be drawn in by that expansive personality and intellect–but I will always be awestruck by the example he set as a scholar, a writer, a colleague, and especially as a person.

Karl Hagstrom Miller December 1, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I first met David Sanjek when I was a grad student at NYU in the late 1990s. My friend David Suisman invited me up to Columbia to hear Dave give a lecture. I think his talk was about Jimmie Rodgers, but it could have been about doo wop, hip hop, or punk rock. What I do remember is the twinkle in his eye, his Cheshire smile, and his mad flow. Time was short, and Dave had a lot to say. The small seminar room was electric. Everyone was energized by David’s obvious delight in talking about something we all loved. Yet the precision of his reasoning and the wealth of factual knowledge he levied made it plain that popular music was serious business.
David befriended me, like he did so many aspiring scholars. I was at the beginning of a journey, full of nervous anxiety, but he spoke with me as if I had already arrived. A few weeks later, I went to meet him at his office. I walked through the gleaming façade of the midtown BMI building and past the cold marble foyer to find his disastrously unorganized office. It was claustrophobic in there. Every surface was covered. Books and historical photographs sat precariously atop stacks of Wu Tang and Milton Brown CDs. I kept trying to get him to talk about BMI, the industry or his father’s work, but he wasn’t having it. Instead, our conversation bounced across pop music history, landing briefly on particular songs or moments before moving on as if he was trying to communicate the sound and import contained in all the music towering around us simultaneously. He had constructed a private outpost to celebrate sound and history in the middle of a building built for money. He did not feel at home.
Over the years, I came to think of David as something of a bellwether for popular music studies as a whole. A productive writer, a ubiquitous conference presenter, a dogged networker, the man couldn’t land an academic job. He had the nervous habit of name-dropping and inserting himself and his work into conversation about almost any topic. He could do this because it was true. He got around. But it also smacked of his desire for legitimacy among academic scholars and access to their club. I knew where he was coming from. I feel that same alienation at history association conferences and faculty meetings where many stalwarts still believe studying ditties lacks gravitas. It is fitting, of course, that one of David’s legacies is his yeoman work fostering the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. It is a place where pop music scholars can finally feel at home, yet it has also been instrumental in identifying popular music as a legitimate field of study within the dominant academic disciplines. I am a direct beneficiary of his work in this regard.
I was thrilled when David finally got a gig in the academy and moved his books and CDs out of that tiny BMI office. The workload was challenging and the distance from friends was a drawback, but I could see the positive impact through the smile on his face. Not long after he took the job, I asked him to write a review for my tenure file. I asked because I deeply respected his work. I also asked because I knew he would appreciate the subversive poetry of the former outlier sounding the voice of academic authority on university letterhead. We’re in. Thanks, Dave.

Dan Cavicchi December 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I had some some strange and difficult times on my way to academia, and every step of the way, Dave–who had his own difficulties–was there to listen, commiserate, and support; he was one of the most generous human beings I’ve met. What I remember most are the stories–rollicking, long, skeptical, funny, deeply-felt stories of camp counseling, his father, eccentric characters in the world of pop music, the lunacy of the job market, the sheer joy of writing well. These seemed to occur everywhere–over dinner, in the hallways between conference panels, *in* conference panels, on the phone, on the street. It makes me laugh, even now, as I struggle to believe that he’s really left us. I hope he rests in peace (though I’ll look forward to hearing his take on things when I see him next).

Tulio Browning December 1, 2011 at 4:03 pm

I worked for David when he was the head of Waterfront at Timberlake summer camp. He was so kind and patient with every child and dedicated to playfulness. As the current Director of Timberlake, I wish to express our sadness at his passing so suddenly.

Paul Wells December 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm

What a shock, and what a kick-in-the-ass reminder of just how fleeting mortality can be. I knew Dave for many years, though I can’t honestly say that I knew him well. He was a frequent visitor to MTSU and the Center for Popular Music, and we had many lively conversations in my office, but I regret that somehow we never managed to carry 0ur discussions out to a local watering hole where we could really get into things. His premature passing is especially sad because things were finally beginning to come together for him with the appointment to Salford, after too many years of frustration banging his head against the doors of the American academic establishment. So it is, I guess, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it other than to raise a glass or two to David’s memory, and salute all of his good work.

Simone Varriale December 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I met David only very recently, during a conference at Northumbria University (UK). He was there to present a paper about Nick Tosches’ music writing and I had the fortune to attend his session. I really loved his paper, but also admired his passionate way of conveying knowledge, his ability in providing both fine-grained details and a sense of the topic’s broader significance. I found his style and persona inspirational. That same day, David chaired the session where I had to present my own paper, and gave me invaluable suggestions and supportive comments. As a person studying in a foreign country – and so feeling occasionally ‘out of place’ – I found David welcoming other than stimulating. I will definitely miss him.

Tavia Nyong'o December 1, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Another of David’s former campers here, although he always laughed off that connection when I would run into him at the ASA or EMP Pop music conference. Nevertheless, the 13 year old in me insisted on always reminding him! I am still reeling from the news: I just managed a quick hello with him in the ASA hotel lobby last month, with promises to catch up properly on a future occasion. Sadly, it was later than I thought. My condolences to his family.

Jon Kertzer December 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I have just heard the news about David’s passing, and must admit I am in shock. I met David in the 90’s while working at Experience Music Project in Seattle, and immediately bonded with him over our shared passion for popular music. I discovered that we both grew up in Larchmont New York, and he was just a couple years behind me in high school- so I like to think that we met way back in the 60’s. David and I worked together on the Library of Congress’s national recording registry, and he would discuss his selections with more insight and knowledge and belief than anyone else on that esteemed panel. Last year, I was very glad that he succeeded in his campaign for Captain Beefheart’s “Trout Mask Replica”., which was added to the registry for 2010, although not sure what the librarian of congress James Billington thought when David played him the music. There is no one else who I enjoyed talking to about music, films, art, politics or anything else, more that David Sanjek. I am very happy that he was able to work at the University of Salford for a few years before his death- he really belonged in academia, and I know that he really enjoyed working there with the faculty and students.

Jon Kertzer
folkwaysAlive, University of Alberta

Jeremy Arnold December 1, 2011 at 6:41 pm

The sad news just reached me here in Los Angeles, and I am in a state of disbelief. Dave was a counselor at Timberlake at the Farm & Wilderness camps in Vermont when I was a camper there in the early 1980s, and our connection evolved over the years into one of friends and even colleagues, mainly through a shared love of movies. We stayed in touch consistently for 30 years, and this past spring when I visited London he came down and we had several meals and saw several plays together… just a wonderful reunion. Others have commented on his high intellect — and equally high enthusiasm/warmth in sharing that intellect — about many subjects, and it’s all true. I shall really miss our talks, sharing notes over movies, and laughing over old times. I am reminded of a sort of axiom everyone at Timberlake always jokingly said to one another — “Life is short; things may change.” We always said it as a joke whenever a schedule of some sort changed, but right now it rings poignantly true.

Deborah Wong December 1, 2011 at 7:35 pm

David was FUN. His energy and enthusiasm was infectious, and his knowledge of popular music unparalleled. He was a very, very special person. I’ll miss him.

Amos Glick December 1, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I just found out about Dave’s passing on Facebook literally this minute. I had just re-connected with Dave via facebook a few years ago and am now devastated to hear he is gone. I met him thirty three years ago as a ten year old at Timberlake camp in Vermont. He had a gift of relating to children as equals that is inspiring to me still and I try to emulate that with children that I meet. He shared his wonderful sense of humor with the kids he counseled and let us share ours with him. I wish I had stayed in touch more, that I could make him laugh once more. His impact on my childhood is impossible to quantify and I am just one of hundreds of kids who he reached. He really was one of the best.

Mark Duffett December 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Last night when I heard the news about Dave, I couldn’t quite believe it: we had a friendly get-together planned for this weekend. How inconsiderate – he never said goodbye. But Dave could be sentimental, so I think that if he had to go, his doing it by slipping away was for the best. He died as he lived – a high flyer – and he died in his native country.

The last time I saw him in the flesh was a couple of weeks ago, when he popped his head into the jazz studies reading round that I attended at Salford. He was organizing another event that day and in retrospect I was sorry that I didn’t go. We stayed in email contact right up until he flew to the USA. He was going to argue the case for George Clinton to be added to the Library of Congress’s National Recordings Registry.

I first met Dave when he came over to present a paper at a conference in Sheffield in about 1999 – we just said a quick hello. When he got the job at Salford I saw him at another event and suggested that we should meet up: we worked in the same field and lived in the same city. We became very dear friends, partly I think because without any comeback we could hear about what was going on (and sometimes going down) in each other’s institutions, and also because we use each other as sounding boards and strategize together. I always felt we were extremely lucky to have a scholar like Dave in this region. But we became more that professional allies. When I got to know Dave as a person, I felt that I was very lucky to have him in my life. We’d be in contact by email all the time, sometimes go out for meals at the Red Chilli on Portland Street, and he’d visit my place every couple of weeks with a ragbag full of DVDs.

Dave knew as much about film as he knew about music. When you watched a film with Dave he’d always turn to you afterwards and want to know your opinion. He had such catholic tastes. I think he liked quirky, ensemble pieces the best as they fitted his inclusive ethics, but we watched everything – from old film noirs to westerns, from films by Orson Welles to Dario Argento, Claude Chabrol and all else in between. I still have a pile of DVDs sitting on my shelf that he loaned me. Beyond cinema and popular music Dave was a cultural omnivore whose interests also extended across theatre, literature and American politics (a little sign of home sickness). Between talking about music research and giving me a priceless education in cinema, Dave would reminisce about his past in the USA: his family life, college days, the summer camps (some of his happiest days) and his time working for BMI… By the end of the night, we’d watched a couple of films, had a few hours of conversation, and it would be getting late. Dave would clap my hand and say, “Alright, man” then be off into the night to get his taxi across town. I never counted how many times we repeated the ritual, but I was always grateful that he’d taken the time. For such a busy person, one of the wonderful things about Dave was how often he found the time to be there with you. He was creative, considerate, compassionate and thoughtful. And I’m going to really miss him.

Andrew Rutledge December 1, 2011 at 8:57 pm

I write this note with tears in my eyes for losing Dave. I have the camp connection to Dave as a camper and a colleague and am happy to see that his life as a scholar was lived with the same warmth, playfulness and exuberance as his camp life. Every year I checked the list to see if he would be at camp. If he was, it was going to be a good summer. Spending time in his care and in his company provided for me me a model for how to be loving, how to be silly and how to work hard. In noting his influence on me and on all the people who have commented before me, it is clear that he will be with us for a long time whether we realize it or not.

Toby Sheppard Bloch December 1, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Such sad news. I too knew Dave as a summer-camp-superstar-extrodinare. As a camper I loved listening to his stories and his encouragement and prodding at waterfront improved my swimming ability immeasurably. Dave cultivated imagination and excitement. He was a gem.

Thank you so much for making it the best summer ever.

John Dougan December 1, 2011 at 10:10 pm

My fondest memory of David is, sadly, what turned out to be the last conversation we had in April at IASPM. Sure, we were talking shop, but it was different — more reflective about our lives and less about work. As I often do, I was telling him about what my son was up to and he seemed genuinely interested and happy for me. Honestly, when I first met David 15 (or so) years ago I never thought we’d become friends, something I’m glad I got wrong. He was open and friendly to me in a way that has not always been the case in my time working in academia. I envied his intelligence, insight, and his ability to write so much (and so well) about so much music and film, but mostly I will miss drinks, dinner, and conversation.

Nick Marshall December 1, 2011 at 10:27 pm

I worked with Dave for many summers in Vermont and shared an intrest in music and reading. I am deeply saddened though somehow it does not seem real to hear he is dead. I am enormously happy to know he had found an academic home at Salford doing the work he had hoped all his life to do. He was so committed to this scholarship which seemed for so long to hold out the prospect of an academic post but never the reality until his dream was realized at Salford. Dave was smart, quirky, loyal and engaged. His death leaves an emptiness for me and I suspect for many others.

Kristi Webb December 1, 2011 at 11:31 pm

I, too, knew Dave from Farm & Wilderness, in the mountains of Vermont. I wasn’t a camper at Timberlake (it’s a boys’ camp) but my roots go deeper even than Dave’s into F&W and I thoroughly enjoyed our searching, wide-ranging conversations. We talked about the past, the future, identity, what makes boys thrive and become men of quality, what boys need that is different from what girls need. Dave was funny, compassionate, caring, deeply insightful, and always seemed larger-than-life. I haven’t met many people who loved talking as much as Dave did. As is often the case with Farm & Wilderness, his “real life” was quite separate and I had only a vague notion of his academic credentials and scholarship. I feel shocked and saddened at this loss.

Gerri Lang December 2, 2011 at 12:27 am

I too worked with Dave at Timberlake. I loved his zest for life, his wit his energy. He was fun to be around and his enthusiasm was contagious. I have followed his journey from a distance. I am so sorry to hear of his death

Andy Flory December 2, 2011 at 1:03 am

I presented my first academic paper while in graduate school at a small conference hosted by the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill. Dave was the chair of my session, and they flew him in for the event. I distinctly remember corresponding with him about my paper before the conference, and him writing intense comments to present after the paper. I thought this was normal, but now realize that he was far more engaged than any other session chair with whom I have ever worked. He clearly understood the import of his role in this conference for the three graduate students on the panel. I remember nearly every exchange that I had with Dave over the years at various conferences. A reference here, a suggestion there. He was one of the good people in this business, and I will miss his presence in the pop music studies community.

Michael Kramer December 2, 2011 at 1:39 am

I echo so many of the comments posted thus far. I was one of the many graduate students Dave befriended in his manic, giving, wide-ranging way. He was damn funny even about his professional and personal heartaches, and he was damn smart, not just about music, but about film, literature, cultural criticism, summer camps, the music biz, and–most of all–about intellectual friendship and how much it was worth.

Dave has a wonderful and moving essay about sneaking childhood peeks into his father’s briefcase, which always contained numerous magazines, newspapers, record albums, recording contracts, letters, publicity photos, and more. In a way, that briefcase became Dave’s mind itself—a place full of treasures, from obscure guitar-slinging Nashville cats to the dance moves of ardent Northern soul fans, from crooners to funksters to folkies to free jazz, from copyright law to summer camp lore, from obscure film noir to the classics of American lit to the latest plays on the stage. The guy had range and he had love: for art, for music, most of all for people. Sometimes he could drive you crazy, but most of the time he made you appreciate finding ways to love the world’s beauty despite all its flaws.

Dave left a lot of essays and books half written. We should pull them together and get his words out. It’s something he struggled to do in his lifetime, but he had something to say in a lot of that material, and it deserves the kind of intense, serious-fun, wide-eyed, appreciative attention that he himself gave to art, music, culture, life—and to all of us. Count me in for that.

Sadly but in deep appreciation of Dave,

Adam Bush December 2, 2011 at 2:34 am

There are few words that will adequately describe my feelings. I, like several others on this page, first met Dave when I was a 10 year old camper in VT. His verve and spirit were a driving force at the waterfront, and in the camp as a whole. It is no exaggeration to say that Dave Sanjeck, with his crazy shirts, quick laughter, and warm heart helped instill the lessons of humor, hard work, and brotherly love in hundreds, if not thousands, of kids. Clearly, his impact was felt as equally in his “off-season” job.

I will miss you, Dave Sanjek. Travel well, old friend.

Mark Duffett in Manchester December 2, 2011 at 8:37 am

When I heard the news about Dave, I couldn’t quite believe it. We had a friendly get-together planned for this coming weekend. The last time I saw him in the flesh was a couple of weeks ago, when he popped his head into the jazz studies reading round that I attended at Salford. He was organizing another event that day and in retrospect I was sorry that I didn’t go. We stayed in email contact right up until he flew to the USA. He was going to argue the case for George Clinton to be added to the National Recordings Registry.

I first met Dave when he came over to present a paper at a conference in Sheffield in about 1999 – we just said a quick hello. When he got the job at Salford I saw him at another event and suggested that we should meet up: we worked in the same field and lived in the same city. We became very dear friends, partly I think because without any comeback we could hear about what was going on (and sometimes going down) in each other’s institutions, and also because we use each other as sounding boards and strategize together. I always felt we were extremely lucky to have a scholar like Dave in this region. But we became more that professional allies. When I got to know Dave as a person, I felt that I was very lucky to have him in my life. We’d be in contact by email all the time, sometimes go out for meals at the Red Chilli on Portland Street, and he’d visit my place every couple of weeks with a bag full of DVDs.

Dave knew as much about film as he knew about music. When you watched a film with Dave he’d always turn to you afterwards and want to know your opinion. He had such catholic tastes. I think he liked quirky, ensemble pieces the best as they fitted his inclusive ethics, but we watched everything – from old film noirs to westerns, films by Orson Welles to Dario Argento, Claude Chabrol and all else in between. I still have a pile of DVDs sitting on my shelf that he loaned me. Beyond cinema and popular music Dave was a cultural omnivore whose interests also extended across theatre, literature and American politics (a little sign of home sickness). Between talking about music research and giving me a priceless education in cinema, Dave would reminisce about his past in the USA: his family life, college days, the summer camps (some of his happiest days) and his time working for BMI… By the end of the night, we’d watched a couple of films, had a few hours of conversation, and it would be getting late. Dave would clap my hand and say, “Alright, man” then be off into the night to get his taxi across town. I never counted how many times we repeated the ritual, but I was always grateful that he’d taken the time. For such a busy person, one of the wonderful things about Dave was how often he found the time to be there with you. He was creative, considerate, compassionate and thoughtful. And I’m going to really miss him.

Jacqueline Warwick December 2, 2011 at 9:29 am

What sad and shocking news. Like so many others, I will miss Dave’s warmth, generous spirit, boundless musical curiosity, and unflagging good humour.

Devon Powers December 2, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I have been thinking a lot about this news, and Dave, since I heard of his death on Tuesday. I can’t admit to have known him well–we first met in Liverpool at IASPM in 2009, and communicated just a few times after that at conferences. But I knew of him and his work during my time as a graduate student at NYU, and the conversations I was lucky enough to have with him remain in my mind as stimulating and joyful. What an approachable, generous, and genuinely interested and interesting person he was, and what a powerful curiosity and intellect he possessed. His passion for music, his earnest devotion to scholarly community and desire to reach out to and know others are models for what I think all of us should aspire to do. The testament to this is how greatly he will be missed by both his dear friends and his acquaintances.

star drooker December 2, 2011 at 1:19 pm

One of the true legends of Timberlake Camp.

“Everybody’s falling down today
we like to fall in our own way
the angels tells me
He’s O.K. now
everybody’s falling down
in their own way”

We’re just in the other room, all of us, and we’ll see you real soon……

Deborah Pacini December 2, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Yesterday I was flat out with obligatory university work that prevented me from being able to fully absorb the reality of Dave’s death or to participate in the outpouring of feelings of dismay and sadness. Today it has really sunk in, and while I have no words commensurate with the magnitude of our loss, words are all I have to say farewell to Dave. I first met Dave in New Orleans, at my first IASPM meeting after Reebee and I got together, and I fondly remember a dinner Dave organized at a restaurant off the beaten path he’d heard about, and wanted to share the experience with a group of us. Because my work was on Latin/o music, Dave and I didn’t have as much in common as other IASPM-ites in terms of our research interests, but I was lucky enough to get know Dave quite well through his close friendship with Reebee; in other words, our friendship was personal rather than professional. Dave would often call looking for Reebee and end up talking to me at length about his family, his health, food, a movie he’d seen, and lamentably all too often, his frustrations about his difficulties getting an academic job. He also talked a lot about Farm and Wilderness, the Vermont summer camp he loved, and when my son Tai expressed interest in applying there for a job as a counselor, Dave was delighted and wrote him a letter of recommendation that got him the job. The link to Farm and Wilderness thus created another family bond, with Tai, who was shocked and saddened when he heard the news through F&W networks. As everyone else posting here has noted, Dave was an extraordinarily warm and sensitive human being, and our whole family loved him and is going to miss him. I wish I’d had a chance to give him a big hug before he left.

Dave Martin December 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I was a colleague of Dave’s for many years at Timberlake. He put all of his energy into everything he did, from organizing 43 man squamish games to cooking sesame noodles for hundreds to ensuring that the waterfront was both safe and welcoming. He had the remarkable combination of entertaining us with his silly skits and stories one minute, then listening seriously the next. He was a mentor to hundreds of campers and young counselors. We all knew that he would listen supportively and offer his insight and encouragement .

I was delighted with his professional success when he moved to England where he could do the work that he loved.

Many will miss him.

David Shumway December 2, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I knew Dave for as long as I have been involved in IASPM, and maybe longer. I believe I met him at an American Studies Association meeting in the early 1990s, where he was on a rare popular music panel. I admired his combination of detailed knowledge of music, the recording industry, and their history together with expansive interest in the broader culture. I don’t think I ever had a conversation with him from which I didn’t learn something, even if sometimes I perhaps learned more than I wanted to know. I always looked forward to seeing him at conferences, and I will miss him both as a scholar and as a friend.

Harry Bruell December 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm

When I was 11, Dave was a father.
When I was 18, Dave was an older brother.
When I was 25, Dave was a mentor and role model.
In later life, Dave was an inspiration as someone pursuing a dream and being highly successful at it.

Dave, I will miss you terribly. There is a big hole left by your loss as you have deeply touched so many thousands of lives.

George Thomas December 2, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Dave Sanjek was on WCNI in the fall of 1972 at Connecticut College For Women (the year the school went co-ed) doing a jazz+ radio show. He was playing absolutely amazing selections but talking for a half hour between each cut. I called him up the station and said something to the effect, “you playing great music, man, but you talk too much. He got off the air at the end of his show, asked around and found out who I was and showed up at my dorm room with a stack of LPs under his arm. We started listening to what was very rare (at the time) delicious stuff, and then he noticed the photos all over my walls from The Farm & Wilderness Camps in Vermont. It was an instant trade. He found the summer camps of his dreams, I got a lifetime education in music: jazz, Holy Modal Rounders, Dave Van Ronk, on and on. We shared a love of poetry, he gave me Living/Dying by Cid Corman and it’s there I’ll turn tonight after my show, a show dedicated to & featuring music Dave turned me on to. In my 39th year of radio, I think of him every show I do( 9-midnight streaming). Thank you Dave for all of it: the 20 page catch-up letters with writing so dense you could walk on it; your dad’s record collection; your mother’s exquisite Chinese cooking; the joy of an obscure movie. You shared it all. I miss you terribly. And yes, Oliver Nelson’s solos on Blues And The Abstract Truth were the best.

Andy Schulz December 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Although it’s been too many years since I last saw or spoke with Dave, I’m deeply saddened to hear this news. He and I were fellow counselors at Timberlake about 35 years ago, and we saw each other only occasionally after that. He was the definition of a man with a big heart, a true friend even if years had passed since the most recent get-together.

Denise Vernon December 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Dave just overwhelmed me with his zest for life and his interest in everything around him. My last memory of Dave was a boyish grin and a rush of energy as he came into my lecture space. I just had to know about a great play he had seen at the weekend that would be just right for emergent young performers…

I shall miss an infectious smile… a great educator and a man who could light up a room… Denise.

Shara Rambarran December 4, 2011 at 7:12 pm

I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Sanjek for the first time at the University of Salford in 2007, and immediately he showed an interest in my PhD research. He motivated me to focus more on my work. In 2009, I had the opportunity to present a paper at the copyright conference at the University of Salford (led by Professor Sanjek). This was one of the best conferences I attended, because the topics discussed were in my field. I also had the chance to meet some of his friends who are also well known academics. Although we last communicated by email a couple of months ago, I last saw Professor Sanjek at the IASPM conference in 2009. He unconditionally showed his support by sitting in my session (although I did not expect him to). Afterwards, we had a good long, long, long chat, where he offered me research and career advice—something that I will cherish forever. He really had high hopes for me—and I will always be grateful. I could not believe it when I heard the awful news. I am so sad. May he rest in peace.

Murray Forman December 4, 2011 at 9:22 pm

This is all so cool, really. What a community of love and spirit and thought and music…Dave is, once again, a catalyst for something good and meaningful and enriching — On and on, ’til the break of dawn, and it don’t stop!

My exposure to Dave was through IASPM first and friendship later and while I have long known about his camp work (especially via Tai, Deb and Reebee) it is wonderful to read the words here from all the Vermont camp crew. This adds depth to a dimension of his life that was less clear to me. Thank you all.

Jorge Arévalo Mateus December 4, 2011 at 11:40 pm

I met David as a fellow archivist, both of us working near each other on West 57th Street. On occasion we’d meet by chance and his love of American music was so evident and profound, particularly when we got into discussing the folk music revival of the 50s and 6os.
David was a soulful and caring man. Isn’t it odd how we often don’t realize the depth of a person until they have left us?
Belated thanks for what you have given.

B.George December 5, 2011 at 1:25 am

Dave was a great friend since the mid-80s and served briefly on the ARChive’s Board. At BMI he was a conduit to the ‘real’ music business and helped us a great deal. But his dream was an academic position and I was so glad that he finally found a place just right for him in the UK. The long letters on navigating his new life were fascinating. We had exchanged e-mails just a few weeks ago, as I was coming to London, and this is all so very hard to believe. Like all of us here I will miss him.

Harris Berger December 5, 2011 at 10:42 am

This news is shocking and terrible. Dave was a kind and lovely man, and his impact on IASPM is incalculable. He will be deeply missed.

Gayle Wald December 5, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I met Dave at either IASPM or EMP–it’s hard to remember now. I remember fondly his loud shirts and big hello. I remember, too, how happy he was to get the job at Salford and how he made that leap across the Atlantic with typical verve. He was one of those rare people who knew everything but who wore his knowledge very lightly. He was also a beautiful writer; I still vividly remember a paper he gave at EMP in 2004, “In My Time of Dying: Johnny Cash, Gary Stewart, Johnny Paycheck and Cycles of Hipness.” His death is a huge loss to the larger community of pop music scholars.

Leigh Edwards December 5, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Like many others, I met Dave because he generously agreed to speak on a panel. He went out of his way to be a kind and welcoming presence. It was at the ASA in 2004, and it was on Johnny Cash — he gave that wonderfully graceful piece on Cash, Stewart, and Paycheck. He was inspiring not only in his work but in how he created this capacious space for critical thinking precisely because he radiated such a strong affinity for and knowledge of popular music. He did so much to help the field and to support his fellow travelers, and he will be deeply missed.

Rip Lhamon December 5, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Dave had a gift for friendship, as these beautiful comments show, that we are unlikely to see repeated. I’m glad I knew him.

Julie Gold December 5, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Dave was a true gentleman and a scholar. I feel lucky to have known him.
Julie Gold

Gerry Rosenberg December 6, 2011 at 12:22 am

I spent several summers with Dave at Timberlake in Vermont where we were both counselors. In addition to the moving memories friends have recorded above, I remember a great, booming, laugh. When he was younger his beard was bushy. Whenever he rose to speak the campers would start a chant, “Fidel, Fidel,” on the somewhat absurd thought that Dave looked like Fidel Castro! It was all good fun. I will always remember Dave’s infectious laugh and good nature.

Scott Morrow December 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm

It is such a shock to hear of Dave’s death.
I shared Eyrie Cabin with Dave for several summers at Timberlake. He was a gifted and natural teacher. Whether teaching kids to swim, or Counselor Apprentices to set up the July 4th fireworks, his humor, attention to detail, and devotion to students’ and friends’ success helped many to accomplish more than they had anticipated. He was a great listener, with a wonderful sense of humor and fun. He cared so deeply for his friends.
I knew of Dave’s persistence in his academic endeavors, and I’m glad to hear of his success. So many of us are richer for having known him!

Len Cadwallader December 7, 2011 at 9:10 am

For those of us who knew Dave and are burdened with grief at his loss, we can take comfort in knowing that we had been in a presence of a quirky, crazy, lovable and loving angel. More angels should behave like Dave.

John Gennari December 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

I always thought David was the embodiment of a newer and better New York Intellectual. In the best of that tradition, he loved decamping in coffee shops and restaurants for high-end, high-velocity, knife-edge gossip about The State of Our Culture. But, of course, his culture concept was infinitely wider and richer and hipper than those pompous mandarins of yore. His standards were high, so when he told me I’d written “a fine book, an important book,” I felt validated — even as he went on to point out how I’d bolloxed up my discussion of his father, and of several other major figures who’d been dinner guests in his childhood home. He loved Vermont, and when I moved here he made sure I was well taken care of by one of his old college friends, now the region’s premier jazz DJ (and one of the best in the country). When a job in American music opened up at a nearby institution, we dreamed of conspiring to make Vermont yet more securely the unrivaled capital of jazz and popular music it already is. Alas, we’ve had to make due here without him, and we’re infinitely poorer for it. So too have the fields of popular music and popular culture studies lost a towering and singular presence. Dave will never be replaced. But we can and should and will remember him and honor him with our work. Right now I just miss him.

Debbie Beebe December 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm

It is truly wonderful to read all the tributes to Dave since I was ignorant of all his accomplishments until the summer before last when he came to visit a mutual friend (Hess) and thereafter started sending me his voluminous letters….I am in awe of him and now he’s gone. I went to Connecticut College with Dave (and George (above..hi George!), and Hess) and we lived in the same dorm senior year. He was always incredibly knowledgeable (almost nauseatingly so) but one of the nicest and most fun loving people you could ever hope to know. It was so wonderful to see him all these years later and feel like we had never lost touch for the last >30 (yes 30) years- I could have talked (and listened to him) all night. And yet reading all these tributes I am amazed he even took the time – he was so very modest, unassuming and sweet. And now he’s gone. ‘Good night, sweet prince..’ .

David Suisman December 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm

I just finished writing a brief obituary to appear in the Journal of Popular Music Studies, paired with an obit for Charles Hamm, in the spring. Because the notice is unsigned and because I didn’t know Charles personally, the piece is relatively formal. That is, it’s more of an appreciation for Charles’s and Dave’s contributions to popular music studies. There was no place to thank Dave for being such a mensch or say how much valued him as a friend. I can still hear Dave’s voice, crystal clear, in my head. We had been emailing about something recently (a review he was to write for the journal), and I just saw him in Baltimore at the ASA. It’s still hard to believe. I’m just so very, very sad about this.

Dave was a wonderful human being–warm, generous, creative, exuberant. Our relationship began when I was one of the many grad students/young scholars whom he befriended over the years. We met at the Smithsonian ca. 1999-2000, when I was a predoc fellow there, and he had some kind of short-term senior fellowship (which was orchestrated, I’m sure, by Charlie McGovern.) Dave and I had lunch one day–I don’t remember who initiated it–but I do remember how it made me feel for him to take my work seriously. He knew so much, yet he seemed so interested and was so supportive.

I had such respect for Dave. He so wanted a job in academia, yet he had such difficulty landing the gig. Most people would not have kept plugging away as he did, year after year. The pressures and aggravations of a non-academic day job would wear most people down. I know I wouldn’t have been able to keep at it; I would have given up or gotten less productive. But Dave persevered, until finally, as Reebee put it, Salford “had the good sense” to hire him. And then it took such guts to move to Manchester, by himself, in his mid 50s. Looking back, I understand that it was his passion that sustained and propelled him. He always seemed happiest when he was talking about music or movies or food–about some book he’d just read or a conference he wanted to organize or some arcane cultural insight he’d stumbled on. He was so proud of his work getting Captain Beefheart and John Fahey included in last year’s registry of the National Recording Preservation Board, and I understand why: because he felt so deeply about why they belonged. (Sigh)

T.M. Scruggs December 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm

My mother passed away last week. But she was 88, and her body simply imploded gradually. So then to hear David dropping dead — seemed, still seems so unbelievable.
There are some people who are so full of a vibrant life force that it is paralyzing to think of them dying, and while still so full of energy. Gerard Béhague was another surprise to us — the man was so full of “Will”.
David was a bundle of energy, but of the kind, generous, fun-loving type. Sitting down with David was never a quiet, swirl the ice cubes, reflective conversation with pregnant pauses; are you kidding?! It was more like steering this flow of ideas, commentary and contagious interest towards the subject areas you wanted it to go. He was passionate and didn’t lack for opinions, but he genuinely listened, and would consider other’s different takes and just change his mind if he thought about it and decided they/you were right after all. He had that great combination of fervor and graciousness. Although in a different way, that combination also characterized Lise Waxer, that we lost waaay too young and name our SEM Popular Music prize after. I just find it hard to believe David isn’t going to be at the next meeting wherever and hunch over drink and join us in delightful babble about this music, that industry thing, or another.
Walk in beauty.

Dave Haslam February 2, 2012 at 10:48 am

For several months after many hurried conversations and brief encounters, we’d been trying to organise a proper sit down and a trip to Red Chili restaurant in Manchester’s Chinatown and managed to get together, finally, mid-2011 and a more pleasurable dinner companion I can’t imagine. The stories. The enthusiasm. The knowledge. The memories of his upbringing and his parents particularly. And then he happily picked up the bill! Win-win! So off the loop only just heard – very saddened by the news of his passing.

Richard Wolland March 8, 2012 at 6:42 am

I only found out the terrible and truly shocking news of David’s death yesterday.

David was my dissertation supervisor back at my alma mater; The University of Salford, UK.

I would go to see David every week in his cluttered but intriguing office. He was clearly very passionate about his work and his enthusiasm was infectious.

He shared many interesting anecdotes. I recall one he told me about when he was at a summer camp type place somewhere in the US and they had severe torrential rain. They were essentially isolated. I can’t remember what the end of the story was but I just remember loving it!

David in my opinion was the most helpful tutor on my course out of the four years I spent there. I actually feel that he was my true mentor in life during that time. He was the guy who said I should try to contact Ian MacKaye of Fugazi to see if he will have a telephone interview with me. I was skeptical but I tried and Ian replied the next day! We had a 30 minute plus conversation and I quoted some of the interview in my dissertation. You can find it on youtube – Ian MacKaye: Revolution Summer.

I just can’t believe he’s gone. He actually helped me neaten up my CV after I had graduated and told me to come see him soon. My only regret is I didn’t take him up on this offer.

Aside from the dissertation, we had some discussions on Northern Soul which he was writing an article on. We spoke about the Casino in Wigan (which is were I was born and raised) and I told him my mother used to frequent this place and he was so excited! What a guy.

I felt Dave was one of a small minority who genuinely loved his work.

Dave was also very warm and he was always very cheerful. His big smile, strong handshake and awesome American accent would settle me in when I came to visit.

Dave, thankyou.

Barney Hoskyns March 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I’m very late to this too, and feel awful that I didn’t know David had died. Can’t say I knew him as a close friend, but hugely enjoyed his energy and humour on the occasions we met: the last was at IASPM-UK in Liverpool. A mine of enthusiasm and minutiae, particularly about the history of the American music industry that so fascinates me. Thank you, David, for sharing your knowledge and passion with me. I would love to have talked with you for many more evenings.

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